AMD has a new dual-core processor to add to its X2 collection, and with a price of $358 (approximately £199) in batches of 1,000 it's very much the baby of the family. The Athlon 64 X2 3800+, to give it its full name, is the fourth X2 chip to hit the market.
Shock and core
The 3800+ has a different core from the previous X2 processors, and this means there is only 512KB of Level 2 cache. It runs at a clockspeed of 2GHz and uses the 939-pin socket that most Athlon 64 CPUs use.
We rigged up the 3800+ in a Mesh PC using an Asus A8N-SLI Premium motherboard with a nForce 4 chipset, 1GB of PC3200 DDR RAM and a 256MB Connect 3D Radeon X850 XT PE graphics card. This rig had previously had an Athlon 64 X2 4600+ chip in it (see Power PCs, page 218) and we were interested to see how the two compared.
We also wanted to compare it to the system we use to rate every other PC and notebook we review, the WorldBench 5 baseline system. With 1GB of DDR RAM, a 2.2GHz Athlon 64 FX-51 CPU with 1MB of Level 2 cache and a 256MB GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphics card, we wanted to pit the single-core chip against the dual setup.
The overall WorldBench 5 score of 108 is 10 points down on the score achieved by the 4600+ but eight percent faster than the WorldBench 5 baseline score. What we were more intrigued by, though, was the breakdown of scores in the 12 different applications used in the WorldBench 5 test suite.
Predictably, the 3800+ was behind the 4600+ in all areas, although it was very close in the Office XP, Nero Express 6.0 and Adobe Premiere 6.5 tests, the latter being an application AMD told us that we'd notice a big improvement in. Our focus was on the Windows Media Encoder 9.0 and Mozilla 1.4 combined multitasking test, where the 3800+ was behind the 4600+ but well ahead of the baseline system, proving that two cores really are better than one.
The 3800+ also displayed dramatically better performance than the Athlon 64 FX-51 in WinZip 8.1, a compression utility, Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator 1.5 and, most notably, Nero Express 6.0, halving the time to complete a set of tasks.
In terms of gaming, we saw the 3800+'s performance dropped off by some 10 to 20 percent in the Doom 3 and Halo graphics tests in comparison with the 4600+. Unfortunately, the baseline system didn't have these tests run on it, although the different graphics card would have made it impossible to draw any meaningful conclusions in any case.